Undergraduate Research

Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Program

Contact: Dr. John Nagy: john.nagy@scottsdalecc.edu


The Life Sciences Department at SCC, in coordination with the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife, offer students opportunities for authentic research that leads to peer-reviewed scientific communications, including presentations at national and international conferences and publications in professional journals. The goal for every student in the program is to present or publish authentic research before graduation from their 4-year undergraduate-degree granting institution.

Program Overview

Students who perform well (A or B) in an introductory majors-level biology course (e.g., BIO 181) are invited to participate in the program. Other students may also be invited to participate. (See prerequisites below.) Students advance in the program through a series of phases:

  1. Phase 1: Coursework. Students begin the program by taking Introduction to Biological Research (BIO 298). This course introduces students to basic scientific practice. It includes modules on research ethics, rigor, study design and proposal, data analysis and scientific communication. Students work in teams on a semester-long research project in coordination with the McDowell Sonoran Field Institute (MSFI). These projects align with MSFI’s mission, and MSFI and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy are the major consumers of the research product.
  2. Phase 2: Research Apprentice. Students who perform well in BIO 298 are recruited to advanced research teams as Apprentices. The teams they join are actively contributing to student and professional literature. Apprentices study the problem the team is working on and develop a command of relevant research literature and technical skills (mathematical, computational, laboratory and field techniques, as the problem demands). This process continues until both the Apprentice and their team gain confidence that the student is ready to begin creatively contributing to the team’s progress. Typically, Phase 2 lasts a semester or two.
  3. Phase 3: Research Assistant.  Following their apprenticeship, students become Assistants and are required to contribute creatively to their teams’ progress. In this phase, students execute laboratory and field elements of the research project, analyze resulting data and models, write  computational code, analyze mathematical models and help prepare communications of results under the guidance of faculty and Associates in the Program. At this stage, the goal is to publish or present in professional (not student) peer-reviewed journals and/or conferences.
  4. Phase 4: Research Associate.  Students who successfully navigate through professional peer review either in a journal or conference then become Associates. They continue their creative contributions to their projects, but they are also required to take leadership and mentoring roles. They largely direct the operations of the team, define the team’s priorities, and help less experienced students gain necessary skills. Many of these students have, by this time, moved on to upper-division study at ASU, but they return to mentor SCC students. Most also participate in BIO 298 as unpaid Teaching Assistants.

Prerequisites: A grade of A or B in a majors-level STEM course; e.g., BIO 181, BIO 182, CHM 151, PHY 111 and permission of the Program Director (Dr. Nagy).